IOWA CITY — An abormally high volume of calls came in moments after the draft for former Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King, according to his agent, Richard Rosa.
“We weren’t dealing with scouts,” Rosa said. “We were dealing with coaches, general managers … at least two team presidents called him personally and said, ‘That’s a guy we have to have.’ There was tremendous interest for him.”
“I can’t deny that there were teams lining up. He had an unbelievable amount of interest from teams. Ultimately, Mitch got to pick the spot.”
Rosa said King chose Tennessee because he felt most comfortable with defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who is known for his fiery temperment.
“The bottom line is Mitch King is a tremendous football player,” Rosa said. “One day he’ll have his day and he’ll say, ‘I told you so.’”
One day after Mitch King was left unwanted by NFL officials, one draft analyst said the slight might benefit King in the long run.
“He was much better off going undrafted than it would have been to go in the sixth or seventh round,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock on Monday. “At least he had an opportunity to make some decisions as to where he wanted to go.”
The Tennessee Titans signed King, 22, Sunday night to a free-agent deal. Most draft experts expected King, a Burlington native, to be drafted anywhere from rounds three through five. Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services LLC., listed King as the fourth-best defensive tackle and a third-round pick. The Sporting News listed King as a fifth-round selection.
“Boy he could slip as far as six, but it would surprise me,” Shonka said before the draft. “You’re talking about (rounds) three to four and if he fell below that, it’s really a bonus to some team. He’s a third-, fourth-round caliber player.”
King ranks among the most productive defensive players in Iowa football history. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. He had 15.5 tackles for loss last year, including four sacks. He had 54 tackles, six quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. He was named a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and first-team All-American by ESPN. He also was Iowa’s co-MVP and named a permanent team captain.
But King’s size seemed to concern most NFL teams. He stands 6 feet, 1 inch and weighs 280 pounds. For most teams, he’s too light to play defensive tackle, too big to play linebacker and not explosive enough to play defensive end.
“Whether it’s fair or not, he’s perceived as a tweener,” Mayock said. “You compare him, for instance, to a (Iowa cornerback) Bradley Fletcher, who had much less production, was nowhere near the player at Iowa. But when the NFL takes a look at those two players, Bradley Fletcher gets overdrafted because he’s a height, weight, speed guy, fits all the numbers they’re looking for and despite all of Mitch’s production, NFL teams look at him and say. ‘Where do we play him?’”
Tennessee might be the ultimate beneficiary. The Titans finished with the NFL’s best record last year at 13-3 but lost All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency. The Titans are unsettled at defensive tackle and have multiple players with King’s dimensions at the position.
“We were surprised when he went undrafted,” Titans scout Mike Ackerley said. “Mitch is a high-energy, high-motor player. He is aggressive at the defensive tackle spot and a really good football player.”
King was one of eight Iowa players getting an NFL opportunity. Fletcher and running back Shonn Greene were drafted in the third round by St. Louis and the New York Jets, respectively. Denver drafted guard Seth Olsen in the fourth round by Denver, while Oakland picked tight end Brandon Myers in the sixth. Center Rob Bruggeman (Tampa Bay), defensive tackle Matt Kroul (New York Jets) and wide receiver Andy Brodell (Green Bay) all signed free-agent deals.
Mayock said King might benefit from playing with a group of veteran player and King might compare favorably with Tennessee’s other rookies at defensive tackle.
“Tennessee took a defensive tackle late in the second round, a kid out of Auburn, named Sen’Derrick Marks,” Mayock said. “And to be honest with you, he’s another one of those height, weight guys. He looks good, but I thought came out a year early. And he’s a kid that is inconsistent, whereas Mitch King will show up at every practice with an attitude.
“I really believe Mitch King, whether it’s this year or next year, will find a way on to an NFL roster.”